The Preview on Group C continues and we’ll be looking at two teams with contrasting styles of play.
Colombia, like most typical South American sides, is an attacking that can score goals and have lots of flair while at the same time not losing their physicality and ability to keep the ball. They’ll be making their first appearance at the Finals since 1998 and with the talent in Pekerman’s side; they are tipped as one of the dark horses going into this Competition.
Greece on the other hand, is a side not known for scoring lots of goals but known for scoring the important ones, which, most times are heartbreaking.
Fernando Santos Army will be making their third appearance at the showpiece and will be hoping to advance out of the Group for the first time.
Out of all the teams in this Group, Greece is the only one which bases it style on its defence and solidity.
Would the safety approach method count?
Would the attacking sides overwhelm them?
The coming Weeks would give a better picture but for now, let’s Preview the Teams!
CAPTAIN: Giorgos Karagounis
FIFA RANKING: 10th
MOST CAPS: Giorgos Karagounis (132)
MOST CAPS (Current Squad): Giorgos Karagounis (132)
MOST GOALS: Nikos Anastopoulos (29)
MOST GOALS (Current Squad): Theofanis Gekas (24)
FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This is their 3rd appearance at the showpiece and their first was in 1994.
BEST PERFORMANCE AT THE FINALS: Group Stage both in US 1994 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Finished bottom in 1994 with no points, no goals conceded 10 while in South Africa, they scored their first goals and picked up their first points against Nigeria. They finished on 3 points with 2 goals scored and 5 conceded.
HEAD COACH: Fernando Santos
PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-3-3
KEY PLAYER: Konstantinos Mitroglou:
For a Team with little goal-scoring pedigree, it’s good to know they can count on the availability of a certain 26 year old, Mitroglou.
The 26 year old, with Olympiakos, set the Greek League ablaze before sealing a January deadline move to now relegated, Fulham. He was on 17 goals in 17 games before the big money move in January
He’ll shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities as Greece would attempt to advance to the next Round for the first time.
On the downside, injuries have marred his stay in England as he’s managed only 153 minutes of Football with the Cottagers before injury struck with no goals scored.
The Greeks would hope He puts that aside and fire Santos men to the Next Round.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Giorgios Samaras, Vasilis Torosidis, Theofanis Gekas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos
ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished 2nd in the UFEA Qualifying Group G on 25 points. Finished 2nd to Bosnia and Herzegovina by virtue of Goal Difference (+8 to +24). Beat Romania in the play-off 4-2 on aggregate.
The team Spirit is incredible and they always refuse to go down without giving a fight. No one in this team typifies that Spirit better than Captain, Giorgos Karagounis who was a member of Euro 2004 winning side.
Since the 2004 Euros, they’ve consistently always been in the Top 20 without altering their style or being an expansive side. It’s been solely down to the desire to win regardless of how it’s done; be it long range shot, a set piece, or even a goalmouth scrambled goal, the will is always there.
It would be best none of their Group Opponents underestimate them as that could be at their own peril.
Despite the fact Fernando Santos has more attacking options, unlike Rehhagel’s side of 2004, they still very much retain that defensive and compact structure the 04 side is famed for.
In their Ten Qualifying Matches played, the Greeks kept a total of 8 clean sheets and conceded just four goals.
The biggest challenge for their opponents would be trying to stage a comeback after going behind.
For all their industry and tremendous work rate, they lack creativity in the midfield which no doubt is a big reason why they struggle to score goals. Karagounis, their main man in the middle is 37 and has lost most of his creative lustre. It’s a little unfortunate that they rely on him because they’ll most likely struggle.
Their safe bet? Set Pieces!
Fernando Santos men might have conceded only four goals in their Qualifiers but they found the back of the net just twelve times. That is at an average of 1.2 goals per game.
It might not look much of a problem because they are built on solidity but against sides that score goals for fun like their Group Opponents, it could be one.
With their Star Striker coming off a disappointing début season with now relegated Fulham, the likes of Samaras would have to set up to the plate and deliver the goods.
I am a fan of it especially when you’ve got fast paced attackers like Chelsea’s who can mince through the best of defences. Remember City V Chelsea?
On the downside, when Counter-attacking sides have to take the initiative when they go a goal down or against Teams you expect to over raw, then it suddenly becomes a problem.
Why? They are built on exploiting space rather than looking for space.
The best bet for Greece, a typical counter-attacking side, would be score first and sit back. Should they concede first.phew! That would be a big problem.
Food for thought: Amongst other reasons, what do you think cost Chelsea the EPL Title?
“It is a very evenly matched group. None of the teams can be considered favorites, but they are all tough opposition. All four countries are happy with the draw. It is going to be very open, and anyone can beat anyone else. A lot of people will say that it is one of the easier groups, but for me it is one of the most difficult. Colombia has some very well-known players, such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and others that have done well in Europe, particularly in Portugal. Côte d’Ivoire also has some top class, experienced players. And Japan is a very well balanced, explosive team.”
GROUP CHANCES: They have won only one game at the World Cup (Nigeria) and improving on that to possibly reach the knockout Round would represent an achievement for the Greeks.
I don’t expect a fanciful side but rather a ruthless one built on the rearguard.
However with 3 attacking teams set to face them, it is hard to imagine they’ll keep clean slates or even score first in all their matches.
They have to find a way to score goals or else they’ll watch the knockout matches at home.
HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:
- Japan and Greece have met just once and that was at the 2005 Confederations Cup. It ended 1-0 in favor of Japan.
- The Showpiece in Brazil would be the Ivory Coast and the Greeks first meeting.
- The Greeks and Colombia have previously met once and that was in 1994. It ended 2-0 in favor of the South Americans
GREECE SQUAD FOR THE WORLD CUP (23)
- GOALKEEPERS: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Giykos(PAOK) and Stefanos Kapino (Panathinakos).
- DEFENDERS: Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis ,Jose Holebas(all Olympiakos),Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund),Giorgios Tzavellas (PAOK),Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (AS Roma) and Vangelis Moras (Chievo Verona)
- MIDFIELDERS: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayesrispor), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos),Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK),Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham),Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino, Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa),Lazaros Chrisodoulopoulos (Bologna) and Panagiotis Kone (Bologna).
- FORWARDS: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK),Giorgios Samaras (Celtic),Konstantinos Mitroglou (Fulham)and Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).
WORLD CUP ODDS: 200/1
NICKNAME: Los Cafeteros
CAPTAIN: Mario Yepes
FIFA RANKING: 5th
MOST CAPS: Carlos Valderrama (111)
MOST CAPS (Current Squad): Mario Yepes (95)
MOST GOALS: Arnoldo Iguaran (25)
MOST GOALS (Current Squad): Radamel Falcao, 20 goals in 51 Appearances for his Country.
FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: This would be their fifth appearance. Their first was in Chile 1962.
BEST PERFORMANCES AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Round of 16, Italy 1990.The Tricolor lost 2-1 to Cameroon after extra time.
HEAD COACH: Jose Pekerman
PREFERRED FORMATION: 4-2-2-2
KEY PLAYER: James Rodriguez:
Radamel Falcao might be the star man but he’s not a striker who’s best known for creating his own opportunities. Without supply, it’s difficult for the Monaco Forward to score and that’s where his team-mate, James Rodriguez comes into play.
The Monaco Man is one of the best wingers with superb footwork and a good eye for the final ball.
He’ll shoulder the responsibilities of creating opportunities for his team-mates and for those who’ve not seen him play, this could be the chance to see the 22 year old in action.
He finished the just concluded season with 10 goals and 14 assists in 38 appearances for the Club from the Principality.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Jackson Martinez, Adrian Ramos, Fredy Guarin and Radamel Falcao (should he make it).
ROUTE TO FINALS: Second in the CONMEBOL Qualifying Section with 30 Points
Unlike most sides at the tourney, this Colombia side has the perfect combination of athleticism and technical ability. The likes of Zuniga, Armero, Guarin and Martinez offer the physical and athletic presence while the likes of James Rodriguez bring flair to the side.
They can adapt their game to match whatever the opposition throws at them.
Pekerman employs the 4-2-2-2 Formation which is a very narrow one. Much has been said of how easy it is to defend against a narrow formation but for Colombia, that’s no worry as Pablo Armero and Carlos Zuniga offer the width which makes Los Cafeteros unpredictable to play against.
They can go narrow and they can go wide.
If you are preparing for the former, be wary of the latter!
James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao are club mates and also country mates.
The 22 year old is one of the most skilful footballers and the 28 year old, one of the deadly finishers in the World.
These two have developed a near-perfect understanding at Monaco and should Falcao make it to the World Cup, they would form a perfect duo at the Mundial.
That should send shivers down the likes of Ivory Coast and Japan with suspect defences.
Regardless of whether Falcao makes the Tournament or not, Pekerman still has quality Strikers at his disposal.
Jackson Martinez, one of the World’s most sought Forwards finished the just concluded with 29 goals and is very good physically, with his legs and aerially.
There’s also Adrian Ramos who finished with 16 League for Hertha Berlin and has secured a move to Bundesliga Runners-up, Dortmund. Another Direct Forward who plays best running at Goal. He also had 8 assists for the Capital Side.
They’ve also got Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca who ended the season with 21 goals for the Andalusian Club.
This department of the team, for most South American sides is the Achilles Heel and Colombia is no exception. That Pekerman still has to rely on a 38 year old, Yepes, who is past his prime, says a lot about the dearth of quality defenders in the team.
Zapata, another defender, is not bad but he’s coming off a disappointing season with AC Milan and would be exposed against the bigger sides in the Competition.
They’ve also, in recent friendly matches been susceptible from the set-pieces. Teams like Greece won’t need a second invitation before they punish Pekerman and his men.
I want to start by saying how exciting it is to be here with Colombia – to be back at a World Cup Final Draw after such a long absence. We knew that whatever group we ended up in was going to be difficult. World champions have been knocked out at this stage before. There are some big names in the group, but the teams with lesser reputations will also be difficult opponents. It will be an interesting group from a tactical point of view.
The four teams have very different styles. Japan is in great form at the moment, while Côte d’Ivoire will be playing in their third World Cup. Greece is not flashy, but we know how strong they are.
GROUP CHANCES: In a Group of Equals, they should just about be the marginal favorites to advance. The strength in attack should at this stage compensate for whatever lapses they’ve got in the defence.
They should advance and top the Group which would equal their best appearance at the Finals.
Whether they are good enough for a long run in the tournament would depend on the defence.
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:
- The Greeks and Colombia have previously met once and that was in 1994. It ended 2-0 in favor of the South Americans
- The Elephants and Colombia are yet to face at the International Stage. The World Cup would be the first.
- The Samurai Blues and Colombia have previously met twice with the two playing out a nil-nil draw in the 2007 Kirin Cup and the other one ending 0-1 to Colombia in the 2003 Confederations Cup.
COLOMBIA’S 30 MAN PROVISIONAL SQUAD FOR THE 2014 WORLD CUP:
GOALKEEPERS: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali) and Camilo Vargas (Independiente Sanita).
DEFENDERS: Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Paolo Armero (West Ham,on loan from Napoli), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Aquivaldo Mosquera (Club America), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven),Luis Amaranto Perea (Cruz Azul), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate) and Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo)
MIDFIELDERS: Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Victor Ibarabo (Cagliari), James Rodriguez(Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Juan Fernando Quintero(Porto), Carlos Sanchez (Elche),Macnelly Torres (Al Shabab), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia),Edwin Valencia(Fluminense), Alexander Mejia (Atletico Nacional) and Ekin Soto(Mainz).
FORWARDS: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Luis Fernando Muriel (Udinese), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Hertha Berlin) and Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate).
WORLD CUP ODDS: 20/1